By Evan Presement
Vee-see. Veh-see. It’s all too confusing. Either way, we’re going-to-see Jimmy Vesey sign somewhere sometime after Tuesday, August the 16th. Until then, we speculate.
There are a number of teams rumoured to be in the hunt. The Leafs, Blackhawks, Bruins, and Rangers are all supposedly frontrunners, with no clear cut ‘favourite’ to have emerged. With what we think we know about where Vesey wants to start his NHL career, let’s weigh the pros and cons of each of his reportedly preferred destinations.
The connection to the Bruins isn’t hard to figure out.
Vesey grew up cheering for the B’s from his hometown of North Reading, Massachusetts. He also played his collegiate hockey at Harvard University . Simply put, whether it’s still ‘a thing’ or not, the allure of playing for the hometown team is still something to keep an eye on.
Honestly, that’s about it.
The Bruins don’t make sense for Vesey for a few reasons.
First of all, any team that signs Vesey will most likely offer him a spot in their top-6. It was reported that when Nashville was trying to sign him, they offered him a guaranteed top-6 role, even in the playoffs. This is something that the Bruins just can’t do.
Based on projected lines for the 2016/17 season, this is how the B’s top two lines shake out:
Marchand – Bergeron – Backes
Spooner – Krejci – Pasternak
Spooner had a sneaky-good season last year and Pasternak, while underwhelming, is still probably a player the Bruins want to keep in their top-6. As a left winger, Vesey’s only real shot at playing on one of these lines would be to play his off wing and take over for Pasternak on the right side – something I’m not sure the B’s are open to doing.
Also, from the player’s perspective, outside of cheering for the team and being from the area, what about the Bruins is enticing?
Alright, yeah, Patrice Bergeron is a top center in the NHL, and Brad Marchand has established himself as a great NHL player. Outside of that, who are you excited to play with?
I mean, David Backes is an OK player, and he’s a fellow American, so maybe him? Tuukka Rask hasn’t had a typical Tuukka Rask stat-line in two seasons now, and he’s going to turn 30-years-old before the season’s over. Zdeno Chara is, for all intents and purposes, a completely average defenceman, and there’s not really anything exciting coming up through the system. Unless, of course, Vesey is clamouring to play with Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn.
Also, as we saw with Steven Stamkos, the supposed allure of playing with your hometown team may just not being ‘a thing’ anymore. Imagine all the friends and family that would come out of the woodwork, asking for tickets, merchandise, etc. For a guy coming in to the NHL, trying to make a name for himself, all those extra distractions are completely unwanted.
As someone with absolutely no inside knowledge to Vesey’s thought process, it’s hard to see the former Harvard star signing in Beantown.
Whether you hate them, love them, or anything in between, it’s hard not to admit that the ‘Hawks are, at this point in time, probably the NHL’s most popular team. Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Submerged in years of awfulness, the Blackhawks were once the black sheep of the NHL. Times, they’re a changin’.
Any prospective NHLer is probably foaming at the mouth at the idea of stepping right in to the NHL on a cup-contending team. Yes, despite their decline, the ‘Hawks are still considered cup contenders.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that reigning Hart Trophy winner and fellow American Patrick Kane plays for Chicago. Despite how you feel about the guy, he’s an unbelievable hockey player and one of the most fun to play with.
Also, though he’s vastly overrated, Jonathan Toews is another name that younger players really look up to. The Hawks are surely offering Vesey the second line LW spot (currently occupied by Richard Panik, lol), which would give him the opportunity to play alongside Toews.
Chicago gives Vesey the best chance at immediate success, something that Toronto, Boston, and New York can’t offer (at least to the same level).
Look at the recent history of roster turnover in Chicago. It’s insane.
Due to the massive, long term contracts handed out to a number of their top players, the Blackhawks are constantly shipping out their younger, cheaper talent due to salary cap constraints.
I’ve already written about Chicago’s cap situation going forward, and there figures to be little to no room for Vesey on a long term, high AAV deal if he actually wanted to stay in Chicago.
Again, I don’t know that this has any sort of bearing on his decision, but Chicago is the furthest geographically from his home town. That might mean nothing, that might mean something. Who the hell knows.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Much like in Boston, Vesey has family ties to Toronto, just in a different way.
His brother, Nolan, was the Leafs’ sixth round pick in 2014, and is currently playing his collegiate hockey at the University of Maine. Jimmy’s father, Jim, is also a part of the Leafs organization, serving as a scout. Certainly, they may have some ideas as to where he should sign.
In terms of the actual team, though, there are a few reasons why Vesey should be interested.
First of all, Toronto is the only team that can offer Vesey an opportunity to grow and develop with the teams’ other top talent.
Toronto is one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and their absolutely stacked farm system should be making its way to the NHL in the near future, if not this upcoming season. Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander all figure to be on the team this year, and being able to play with some of the most skilled prospects in the game (while still hanging around people your own age) must be enticing.
Also, were Vesey to choose Toronto, he would come in as the third or fourth most talked about ‘young guy’ on the team, whereas with any other Vesey contender, he immediately becomes their best prospect, or close to it.
In a media market like Toronto, the pressure can get to you. It would be a blessing in disguise for Vesey to step in to a situation where the weight of the world isn’t square on his shoulders.
Vesey would slot in nicely on Toronto’s second line wing. The second LW spot is currently occupied by Milan Michalek, and I’m sure Toronto would have no problem pulling the ol’ switcharoo. Toronto’s general lack of depth on the left side means that there’s ample opportunity for Vesey to move up and down the lineup, and play with different players.
You can never mention the media in Toronto without mentioning how it could end up being a detriment.
We’ve seen it time and time again. Some players just can’t handle playing in the fishbowl that is Toronto. Simple as that.
Also, for someone who has played the entirety of his hockey career in the States, a move to Canada could potentially be something he’s not ready for. Again, though, that’s where family comes in.
Another issue is that Toronto doesn’t give Vesey an immediate chance at success. While the Buds won’t be a 30th place team, they’ll be in tough to make the playoffs, and will most likely endure another (and most likely the last) season of failure before making a major push a the start of the 2017 season.
New York Rangers
Literally none, other than living in New York, I guess. Oh, and that Lundqvist guy.
New York is not a good team.
They have one of the worst defensive units in the NHL. Their forward group leaves much to be desired, and they’re just mired in mediocrity for the foreseeable future.
Looking at the roster as it’s currently constructed, it’s hard to find a spot on the left side for Vesey.
Chris Kreider and Rick Nash occupy the left side on the first and second lines, and the only real spot for him in the top-6 is on the second line, right side, currently occupied by Jesper Fast.
Also, who on the Rangers does anyone really look forward to playing with? Well, outside of Hank, of course.
Rick Nash is not an elite player anymore. Mats Zuccarello is great, but if that’s really your biggest draw on forward, then your team probably has some issues.
Also, coach Alain Vigneault has shown in the past that he’s loyal to his veterans, regardless of if they’re even good at hockey anymore. Dan Girardi, Tanner Glass, and Marc Staal are just a few examples. It’s hard to see him uprooting one of his older guys to give a spot to an unproven rookie – it’s just not his style.
Maybe my personal view is getting in the way here, but I really don’t see any reason for a young player to want to play on the Rangers. Is the allure of the city enough?
To me, it comes down to Toronto and Chicago for this reason: They offer you the extremes of each end of the spectrum.
Toronto is a rebuilding team with an extremely bright future. Chicago is an accomplished team with at least a few more kicks at the can before things start to turn. One option offers you the opportunity to grow and evolve with a team full of young players, while another offers you a legitimate chance to win in the here and now.
In the end, I believe Vesey will end up choosing the Blackhawks, although I personally believe that would be the wrong choice. The allure of the logo, recent history and the fact that they employ the reigning Hart Trophy winner will play a huge role in the decision.
If I were Vesey, Toronto and Arizona would be my two top options. Oh well, another top free agent in a bidding war choosing to sign somewhere other than Toronto… Where have we seen this before?
SIDENOTE: Buffalo and New Jersey are not included because I can’t see any scenario in which he signs with either team. That is all.